Tips for night shifts | Association of Anaethetists
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Tips for night shifts

Top tips for working night shifts

What can I do to fight fatigue while working night shifts?

Firstly, don’t try to 'power through it'. Fatigue puts you, your colleagues and your patients at risk.

Before nights

  • Make sure you usually have a good sleep routine
  • Get extra sleep before your shift. An afternoon nap is ideal as it reduces the length of time you have been continuously awake. A lie-in is an alternative
  • Plan how you will get home. Is there an option other than driving?
  • Will you need to rest before driving home?

During nights

  • Keep well hydrated and eat healthy snacks. Calories on nights DO count; they contribute to the adverse health effects of night working
  • Maximise exposure to bright lights in non-clinical areas
  • Breaks are essential: work as a team to cover each other for these
  • A 15-20 min nap can significantly improve alertness
  • Longer naps may result in sleep inertia
  • Be vigilant for the 04:00 dip: your lowest physiological point
  • Work as a team to check calculations and be aware of the effects of fatigue on decision making
  • If you can, a consistent routine during shifts can help

Between nights

  • If you are too tired to drive, have a short nap before leaving work
  • Have a snack before sleeping so you don't wake up hungry
  • Go to bed as soon as possible to maximise the amount of sleep you will get
  • Do not plan deliveries or daytime activities for the days between night shifts. Warn your housemates that you need to sleep

Recovery after nights

  • Have a short sleep in the morning and then get up
  • Aim to go to bed at your usual time; avoid a long lie in the next day
  • You'll need at least two normal night's sleep to reset your sleep routine

See our useful tips to aid sleep